DPC experiences presentation on new models of pastoral leadership
by luke eggleston
sun staff writer
Syracuse’s Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) was treated to a presentation on emerging trends in parish leadership Saturday, May 10, at Bishop Grimes Junior/Senior High School.
At the invitation of Father James Lang and Executive Secretary of the DPC Tina Dyer, Marti Jewell, director of the Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership project in Washington, D.C., delivered the presentation. Jewell received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Dayton and her master’s in theology from St. Francis Seminary, School of Pastoral Ministry, in Milwaukee. From 1990 to 2003 she served as the agency director for the Archdiocese of Louisville. Jewell is currently pursuing her doctorate at Catholic University in Washington.
Jewell used a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate each element of her discussion, which focused on current trends in church leadership in light of new developments such as the priest shortage and immigration.
Jewell opened her presentation by asking for a show of hands of all the attendees who have noticed substantial changes in their own parish during the past year. After a limited response she asked how many had noticed changes over the past five years. Finally, almost every attendee raised his or her hand when Jewell asked how many had noticed changes since the time that they were seven years old. Many of the attendees recalled church conditions prior to the Second Vatican Council.
Among the changes attendees noted were permanent deacons, parish councils and celebrating Mass in English.
Jewell went on to discuss many of the external factors that are changing the contemporary church. Rural parishes, particularly in the South, she noted, have significantly larger migrant worker populations.
In addition, the priest shortage has placed enormous strain on the clergy. Jewell said that nearly half of the parishes in the U.S. share a pastor with one or more other parishes or missions. In some dioceses, priests are responsible for as many as five parishes. Jewell noted that in one extreme case, a priest is responsible for nine parishes.
She explained that the priest shortage has resulted in expanded responsibilities for lay leadership.
“We’re no longer a solely clergy based organization,” she said, noting that the church has had to learn how to deal with employees, whereas in the past it could rely on priests and religious for day-to-day functions.
“These are totally new and different challenges for us as a church,” Jewell said.
Jewell said she believes the new composition of the church is a change it is more capable of adjusting to, given its tradition of inclusion.
Jewell noted that the Catholic Church has a solid record of acceptance throughout its history.
According to Jewell, the Diocese of Newark, N.J., claims it celebrates liturgy in 60 different languages, while the Diocese of Los Angeles offers it in over 80 languages.
“People have a right to be ministered to in the language of their heart,” Jewell said.
She also stressed that in light of the significant wave of immigrants to the U.S., the church must find a way to minister to undocumented workers, especially since those Catholics might not be as likely to attend Mass without an invitation.
“The church needs to find a way to reach out to undocumented workers who might not otherwise walk in through the front door,” she said.
Jewell also addressed the issue of young people in the parishes, noting that 60 percent of all Catholics are under the age of 50. Jewell’s PowerPoint presentation highlighted the importance of finding a way to incorporate young people into parish life. One of the elements Jewell believes can be used to make parish life more appealing to young people is digital ministry. She suggested that young people could even be given responsibility for a parish’s digital ministry, such as the Web site.
At the request of Bishop James Moynihan, Father Lang extended invitations to young people throughout the diocese, specifically so that they could hear this portion of Jewell’s presentation.
During the question and answer period that followed Jewell’s presentation, Bill Winnewisser, a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Anne Seton in Baldwinsville, noted that his parish has made a concerted effort to integrate young people into each element of the church.
“All of a sudden, the kids are very excited,” Winnewisser said.
Jewell said that, according to surveys conducted by the Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership Project, many young people consider pursuing vocations. According to the survey, 40 percent of all young men have considered the priesthood, while 30 percent of all young women have considered religious life. They lose interest, however, when parish leaders fail to discuss the option with them.
Jewell’s conclusion emphasized the crucial role of the laity in pastoral leadership.
“In the end, what we are doing is tapping into our greatest resource, which is the laity,” she said.
Father Daniel DeLorme, the pastor of St. Margaret Church in Homer, noted that he has actively encouraged lay leadership.
“One of my great gifts really is to be an enabler,” he said. “I enable much more than I am enabled. Our parish has really flocked to this model.”
Bishop Thomas Costello praised Father DeLorme’s foresight and the plan he established for St. Margaret.
“He put his money where his mouth is and provided training,” Bishop Costello said. “Dan, I salute you for providing that leadership.”